Makhanda businesses battle it out with Eskom to stop massive 14-hour power outages
Lawyers for Makhanda businesses and the local ratepayers on Thursday morning began a marathon meeting with Eskom lawyers to try and come to settlement that will see the city’s lights staying on.
The Grahamstown Residents’ Association, Grahamstown Business Forum and individual businesses resorted to court for an urgent interdict to stop Eskom from implementing its threat to switch off the bulk electricity supply to Makana Municipality which owes it more than R80m.
Eskom announced it intended interrupting supply to the city from next week for up to 14 hours a day after the municipality reneged on its fourth repayment plan with the national electricity utility.
The GRA, GBF and businesses say the effect on the city, which is home to a large public/private hospital, Rhodes University and dozens of government and elite private schools, would be disastrous.
The city is already floundering under a broke municipality where municipal staff have been on a nine-week long informal strike and where administration is so poor that the road, water and sewage infrastructure have all but collapsed.
The urgent interim interdict court application was due to be argued on Thursday morning. But after layers met with presiding judge Zamani Nhlangulela in chambers, they decided to try and negotiate away their differences rather than face each other in court. IF the settlement negotiations fail, the court case will continue later today.
Eskom is opposing the urgent application. It warns that if cannot recover debt from defaulting municipalities like Makana, it will remain in crisis mode which would have a knock on effect on the whole country.
It is understood that Nhlangulela, who is deputy judge president in Mthatha, was brought in to preside in the matter rather than a local judge to avoid any perception of bias in the favour of Makhanda.
Despite being cited as a respondent in the matter, Makana Municipality was not present in court in any capacity this morning.